My wife stayed up to see the Curiosity rover land on Mars and beam a message back to let us know that it arrived safely and was already exploring for signs of intelligent life.
We’ve long since given up that search here. If Mars sent a rover to Earth, it would be called Stupidity. And here’s what it would have found this week:
A 40-year-old White supremacist disproved his thesis by shooting six people in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. It turned out he’d been under surveillance for a couple years by the Federal Bureau of Investigation because he belonged to neo-Nazi groups suspected of funding domestic terrorist attacks. And, of course, there was the legally purchased handgun. Anyone looking to make sense of this act of terrorism had plenty to go on.
Those looking to make nonsense of it, though, had Pat Robertson, who blamed atheism. “People who are atheists, they hate God, they hate the expression of God, and they are angry at the world, angry with themselves, angry with society and they take it out on innocent people who are worshipping God,” said the Reverend. At least he didn’t blame the lesbians.
Those curators of truth over at Fox News didn’t spend a lot of time bemoaning the incendiary effects of racism. They were busy complaining that Gabby Douglas wasn’t patriotic enough because she wore a pink leotard when she was winning a gold medal in gymnastics for the United States of America. If you’re not sure which one she is, let me save you some time: She’s the black one.
In an unspoken nod toward her race, Fox asked a black conservative commentator, David Webb, to tut-tut her tutu. There was some bizarre whining that people weren’t chanting “USA! USA! USA!” loudly enough, but then things got really weird.
“We’ve lost over time that jingoistic feeling,” said Webb. Pity, that. The American Heritage dictionary defines jingoism as “extreme and emotional nationalism, or chauvinism, often characterized by an aggressive foreign policy, accompanied by an eagerness to wage war.”
I’m concerned that Webb wasn’t falsely equating jingoism with patriotism. Obama’s foreign policy of speaking softly and carrying Seal Team Six might not be openly aggressive enough for the Fox News crowd, though I’m not quite sure they picked the right target in Douglas. She hasn’t seen her father in two years because Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Timothy Douglas is stationed in Afghanistan.
One bit of good news this week came when Barack Obama signed a bill restricting protests of soldiers’ funerals. You might have heard about how the Westboro Baptist Church pickets these funerals to highlight their belief that our soldiers are dying because our country is becoming less hostile to homosexuality. Families of soldiers killed in action comfort themselves with the idea that their loved ones were fighting to protect our freedoms. I can’t imagine how the nauseating sight of the protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church abusing these freedoms must horrify these mourners. How no one has ever shot these people is beyond me.
But this is America, where in 2002 the Supreme Court ruled that these people have a right to be wrong, so all Obama did was to make it a federal crime to get within a football field’s length of the funerals. To which the Westboro preacher Fred Phelps Jr. tweeted, “1st Amendment meaningless to Obama.”
All this gave my better angels a beating, so I have a hard time condemning Ernesto Garza, who was eating his breakfast taco at the La Amistad Adult Daycare in Beeville and thought he saw Jesus in the scorch marks on his flour tortilla. I will not condemn an 80-year-old pee-paw for his faith, but neither can I say that seeing Jesus in a tortilla is particularly encouraging about intelligent life on Earth while we’ve got Wall-E seeking out new life on Mars.
Curiosity has inspired many, me included, to consider the potential of humankind. But our limitations bring me down. Talking about the Fermi paradox on his StarTalk Radio podcast, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson joked, “They’ve actually studied Earth and concluded that there’s no sign of intelligent life.”
Don’t need a study for that. Just a newspaper. Get it together Earth, the neighbors are watching.